Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a column about technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:
While portable digital audio player sales have soared over the past three years, sales of other audio components have seen double-digit declines in the same period. The CD has not only reached saturation, but has proven a beast to manage in a music library. Home audio components such as receivers and floor-standing speakers have taken refuge in the audiophile-friendly confines of specialty retailers, while the low end of the market has to some extent done the same in the bargain basements of mass merchants.
That low end has has the following hierarchy – shelf systems at the top, boomboxes in the middle and clock radio at the bottom. Last year's Brookstone SongCube (pictured at right) was one of the few shelf systems to include a hard drive. However, the boombox has been even slower to come into the digital age as a standalone music device even though several models – even inexpensive ones – have MP3-CD capabilities. Clock radios lack even these, although there is an MP3 alarm clock offered in Europe that can use SD cards In addition, of the three, boomboxes are most apt to be used outdoors, and have not been hit as hard by the iPod as portable CD players have been..